With Quilgeran Pinnacle to your right and Black Mountain to your left you feel pretty small as you follow the road as it snakes through the terrain. Soon you pass through the locality of Steinbrook, not much anymore, just a big kink in the road with several 90 degree corners. Just out of town the dirt continues as you cross the Cataract River, here you are greeted with stunning views across fertile farmlands, with mountain peaks in the distance- the views are just that good. For the next 15km the road follows several ridge lines before dropping down to fertile valley flats. Now you begin to pass through several private cattle stations. The owners like you to stick to the established station roads but there are pull over spots on higher ground which are great for photos and to take in the surrounding views. Give respect to any farmers you may see out here with a friendly wave and slow right down as they don't appreciate the dust or noise that might spook their livestock.
At the 40 km mark an intersection will appear with a couple of options. With a right hand turn here along Upper Rocky river Road you can explore other reaches of these valleys and Rocky River. Now the trail here goes for another 30 km with creek crossings into some rugged areas, it does come to a dead end. It is possible to camp along the way but you will need prior permission to do this, unfortunately you need to wander back to this intersection for another adventure decision. Our decision was to go straight on, sign posted towards Drake ( 53km away).
Some may find it hard to believe but this road was once the main route between Tenterfield, Drake then through to Lionsville ( now an abandoned gold mine settlement ) and on towards Grafton over 100 years ago. From the old Cobb and Co Coaches, large bullock teams and even bushrangers they all used this road. Back in the day, early settlers simply could not move these granite boulders that in some case are as large as a double decker bus, you'll even have to sound your horn as you approach some of these rocks as it is a near zig zag around a section here, pretty interesting if towing a camper trailer through here.
Here as you enter Girard State Forest the terrain gets a bit more serious and the road rises to near 1000 metres above sea level in a few kilometres. Being on the southern side of this range, the rainforest is stunning and is generally a bit cooler than the flats below. With tall cool climate ferns, palms and even the odd coachwood tree is a totally different eco system to what you have just left behind. Even the wildlife has changed to the sounds of whip-birds, the odd paddy melon wallaby hiding road side to the ever popular carpet python snaking its way roadside. For those who want to explore Girard Forest, keep an eye out for Long Gully Fire Trail on the right. These trails are great to explore the top of the range, passing through large stands of scrubby timber that contains iron bark, black butt and a little scribbly gum. The trails in here do loop around back to where you start from, so getting lost isn't really a worry OR an option. You will find stands of Grass Trees, old log bridges and several rutty hills where 4wd will be needed. The trails in the Girard State Forest are maintained on a irregular basis so care must be taken, as you may encounter the odd tree that has fallen. Returning back to Long Gully Road it is a matter of swinging right and adjoining the tar again, The houses seem to get closer and closer to each other and you know a town is not too far away. Not long the Bruxner Highway greets you and it is here you need to decide whether it is a short dash to your left into the town of Drake for a counter meal, or do you head to your right for a run down towards the coast. Options are great !!